On July 14, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to send cross-border humanitarian aid to areas of Syria controlled by Syrian rebels in desperate need of food and medicine. This decision was made despite strong objections from the Syrian government.
The vote came out 15 to 0, meaning that all members of the U.N. Security Council agreed on this decision. The unanimity is notably rare in U.N. council meetings.
Approximately 10.8 million Syrians—nearly half of the country’s population—are in need of food, medicine and other supplies due to Syria’s on-going war. This is a huge increase from about one million citizens in 2011. And nearly half of these people live in rebel-held areas.
The conflict in Syria has thus far left 150,000 people dead, and created widespread instability in the country. U.N. officials refer to this situation as one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters.
Until now, nearly 90 percent of aid from the U.N. Security Council was appropriated for those in government-controlled regions. The new initiative will bring aid to an additional 1.3 million people in need.
Russia and China threatened to veto the resolution, resulting in a weaker compromise than many Western nations had hoped for, according to the BBC’s Nick Bryant. The Syrian government also warned the U.N. that it would consider such resolutions a violation of national sovereignty.
Prior to this vote, aid going to Syria first went through the nation’s capital of Damascus, on President Bashar al-Assad’s orders. This meant that Assad gained control of all aid coming in. Many believed this aid was used as leverage against the rebel efforts, since very little of it ever made it to their held regions.
U.N. ambassador from Luxembourg, Sylvie Lucas, said that Assad’s denial of supplies to rebel-controlled regions was the main reason the resolution came about.
She said that under the new resolution, “the consent of the Syrian government will no longer be necessary.”
The new resolution authorizes U.N. agencies and other aid organizations to send humanitarian assistance using routes across four conflict border lines in Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. These routes will allow the U.N. to monitor aid shipments in these three countries before they are sent across the Syrian border. These routes will come in addition to those previously used for aid.
Nongovernmental organizations such as Save the Children and Oxfam welcomed the resolution, and will likely assist the U.N. in carrying it out.
Bashar al Jaafari, Syria’s U.N. ambassador, was strongly opposed to the measure. He was invited to attend the vote, and was sharply critical of the resolution, citing Syria’s efforts to accommodate international relief. He also stated that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—countries advocating humanitarian access—were in large part responsible for empowering Islamic extremists destabilizing Syria and Iraq.
“First and foremost, terrorism must stop for the humanitarian situation in Syria to improve,” he said.
Despite opposition and warning from Syrian government officials, humanitarian assistance in rebel-held areas will be implemented in the near future.
– Paige Frazier